History, Fantasy, Romance, and Marketing: What I Read in March
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Part of me wants to say that I didn’t feel very productive in March, but if reading counts as doing something productive, holy hell, I was on top of my game. Between traveling for a week at the beginning of the month and taking on some extra writing jobs during the month, I managed to read more than I usually do.
In case you don’t know, or you just want more proof that I’m kind of quirky about things, I keep a spreadsheet of authors I love and all the books they’ve written. When I come to a series, I go down the list – even if I’ve read the book before. You can chart a story and an author’s growth through a series, and (as a writer) I find that fascinating. Plus my INTJ ways sort of compel me to have a method and system to keep up with the books I read.
So what did I read in March? A little bit of everything. And they were good enough that I’m recommending them to my fellow readers of the world.
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
I picked up her latest book, Lionheart, weeks ago, and I was inspired to read the rest of her catalog. I read Sunne in Splendour years and years ago, but only remembered the barest details. This is a sweeping epic that tells the story of Richard III’s life – he was the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and one of the (multiple) Henry’s. He was the Duke of York, the white rose in the War of the Roses. Y’all, I cried, I cheered, and I felt every emotion imaginable. With several hundred pages to read, it wasn’t difficult to feel a little bit of everything. Her style is very detailed, and she switches character points of view, but it’s wonderful because you get into everyone’s head, and you know exactly what’s happening.
Seth Godin is the Master
I’ve followed Seth Godin’s blog for a while. He always makes me think, and he often inspires me – not just to be a better marketer, but a better human, too. Many of my philosophies about marketing, selling, and creating content online are inspired by his thinking – even if there are times when I fall woefully short. For whatever reason, I’d never read any of his books until now.
Tribes, All Marketers Tell Stories, and The Icarus Deception are three different books from three different points in Godin’s thinking and evolution on marketing, storytelling, and content creation. They all build one on each other.
Tribes is about leading groups that matter to you. Instead of trying to mass market and find mass appeal, find your tribe. He posits, and I agree, that groups of people who share an interest – whatever that interest may be – want to be lead. And if you can’t lead, at least join the tribe, and be present.
All Marketers Tell Stories is really all marketers tell lies. These aren’t harmful lies, but lies as stories – the things we tell ourselves because we want them to be true, even if they’re not. By believing they’re true, these particular stories become part of our reality about ourselves. The power of marketing is to tell a story that fits a customer’s view. The story has to be authentic, the product/service has to be a good one, but ultimately success will happen only if the customer believes the story or the story fits into their own personal “lie” of who they are, what they want, and how this thing you’re selling will work for them.
The Icarus Deception reminded me of Big Magic, which I read in February. It’s about letting go of fear and realizing that anyone can be an artist, anyone can create something. Godin reminds us that we need to worry less about approval and success and more about making a connection. To do that, we need to keep making art – whatever that may look like.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
How did I make it so long without reading The Hunger Games? I’m not really sure. I saw the first movie a few years ago, but since dystopian futures aren’t really my thing, I didn’t give it another thought. And then Aidan was looking for more books to read for school, and he needed them at a certain point and grade level (we follow the Accelerated Reader program around here). I came across The Hunger Games series, and he ate up all the books. I was quickly hooked, too. The books (as is often the case) are better than the movies. I love being in Katniss’s head and hearing her confusion, her mistrust, even her rare optimism.
It didn’t take long, and within the first few days of April, I’d already read the second two books. Yes, they really are that good. Maybe now I’ll watch the rest of the movies.
Upon the Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Remember when I mentioned my spreadsheet for keeping up with books and authors? Well, Sherrilyn Kenyon is on the list. She writes paranormal/fantasy romance featuring Dark Hunters, nearly immortal people who cheated death by selling their soul for one last taste of vengeance on the people who killed them. In exchange, they agree to fight off Daimons (soul-sucking near-immortals – as long as they eat souls) who prey on mankind. Basically, everyone is hot, and everyone is alone and thinks love sucks. Until they meet their soulmate.
The other side of the story are the Dream Hunters. They’re the ones who either give us good dreams or deal with the evil beings who will haunt our dreams. The only way they can feel emotions is during a human’s dream. Oh, and don’t forget entire pantheons of gods and goddesses, as well as demons and other foul creatures.
Upon the Midnight Clear is the story of a goddess who happens to be a Dream Hunter who must fight and destroy the god of pain. Her only help comes in the form of a mortal, Aidan, who’s embittered, lonely, and hiding from the world. Hot sex and romance ensue. I’m pretty sure you know how it ends, but it’s still fun getting to that point.
Mercedes Lackey: An Amazing Imagination
I read two books by Mercedes Lackey this month: Steadfast, one of the Elemental Mages books, and Firebird, an early taste of Lackey’s dive into fairy tales.
Steadfast is book eight in the Elemental Mages series. What I like is that while they’re all connected, they can be read as standalone books – no cliffhangers here! In this one, we meet Katie who is an acrobat in the circus. She runs away from her abusive husband and finds herself in the perfect position to become a magician’s assistant. That “magician” happens to be an Elemental Mage. There’s magic. There’s fantasy. There’s intrigue. There’s romance. Hell, there’s even an angry abusive drunk who makes her life miserable. In the end, with a little big of magic, anything is possible.
Firebird is similar to another story Lackey wrote as part of her Five Hundred Kingdoms fairy tale series. It’s based on a Russian fairy tale about the youngest son of nine who becomes the “fool” in order to avoid being bullied to death – or outright killed – by his father and brothers. The story follows the son, Ilya, on a magical adventure after he sees a Firebird, a mythical creature who brings bad luck to anyone who sees her. He rescues princesses, defeats an evil sorcerer, and has a happy ending, but not the one you expect.
Sharpe’s Tiger by Bernard Cornwell
I love, love, LOVE Bernard Cornwell. He’s a historic novelist who brings characters to life. Over the years, I’ve read a book here and a book there, but now I’m organized, and I’m attacking his catalog with a vengeance. In March, I began his amazing Sharpe series.
Sharpe’s Tiger is the first. Richard Sharpe is a young English army private fighting in India in 1799. He’s smart, tough, practical, but he also realizes the army has its issues. Plagued by a mealy-mouthed, vindictive, lying superior officer, he considers deserting (mostly out of boredom), taking his woman with him, before a life-changing opportunity is thrown his way. On his adventure, his wits will be tested, as will his patience, but he realizes he’s a soldier, and a damn good one.
Whew! Do you think I read enough in March? My stack of books for April isn’t much different. I would probably be more productive if I put my book down at night, but why would I want to do that?
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